View from the AU: "It's thank you from me"

The Athletic Union Officer signs off on a fantastic year of sport at Newcastle

Fergus Mainland
5th June 2022
Athletic Union Officer Fergus Mainland. Image: @nusu_au via Instagram
People make sport. As I sit and write this in a somewhat hungover state after a night in Cosy Joe's, what is clearer than my recollection of last night is that one’s experience in sport is determined by those closest to the in the sporting community.

With the right network around you, sport will give you memories to last a lifetime and mates you can to the pub with in 40 years and say, “how brilliant was that.”

For me, this year has been all about rebuilding sport. Getting our teams match fit and reintroducing over 4500 students to a proper calendar year of Athletic Union fixtures, training and events. A I said in my speech at the AU Ball, Team Newcastle hit the ground running in spectacular fashion and the results we have racked up have been incredible.

We should have known it was going to be a bumper year after Netball 5s beat Teeside 148 - 0.

As a coach, there’s nothing better than watching the group of athletes you work with develop and grow (technically, physically and personally). Being able to see someone achieve their sporting goals and become the best version of themselves is a very inspiring thing to do and I’ve been fortunate enough to do it for the past two seasons with the Women’s Squad in the Boat Club. They’re a classy group whom I could sing praises about for paragraphs and paragraphs. Much like any team, we’ve been on a turbulent rollercoaster throughout the pandemic. The squad we’ve ended up with is a young squad, one with a huge amount of potential and one that is evolving as the season goes on. It’s a squad of proper grafters who’ll get stuck into every session throughout the week. While success hasn’t been what many would have hoped for, the lessons learned and racing experiences that have played their part in the season are invaluable to the development next season.

More importantly though has been the personal development of the freshers in the squad. The challenge that this year’s intake has faced transitioning from isolation and a lack of club interaction to suddenly being thrust into university life has been immense and I applaud each one of them and all of our students who joined us for the first time in September. I’ll never forget these two years of coaching and the part they played during my five years here at Newcastle. I owe a huge amount to the Boat Club and I feel very privileged to be able to give back and to lay the foundations of what’s to come.

Rowing is quite unique in the sense it only has a couple of large BUCS events as opposed to weekly fixtures in leagues up and down the country. Going and watching these matches and learning about a side of BUCS that I have never experienced before has been the best part of this job. I’ve written a previous piece about how much I was enjoying following our Men’s and Women’s Football teams and that has stayed true all season long. Huge credit to their respective Presidents Dan and Amélia for taking their respective clubs to new heights this year as well as the fantastic coaching team that supports them and allows the athletes to go from success to success. Narratives and journeys like Football’s this season have been brilliant to follow. Volleyball is another club who have played with passion, have a cracking fan base and were a joy to watch- without this job I’d still be oblivious as to how awesome the sport is. It’s moments like home knockout wins that will stick with me for years to come and some of the memories I’ll look back on fondly.

I suppose one final event to touch on is Varsity. 27th April was the date that over 30 fixtures took place and the rivalry was reignited with Northumbria. It was a huge celebration of sport and, in case you didn’t know, we beat Northumbria and the trophy is looking rather splendid on my desk…

Aside from winning, the best part about that day was just how many people were engaging, not just taking part but spectating. Cochrane Park had it’s largest ever crowd for that Tuesday night fixture which saw Men’s Rugby pump Northumbria. Sport Central’s seating gallery was packed for all of Northumbria’s indoor fixtures and the rest of the matches had cracking numbers. It made me immensely proud to see these matches attended, to know that people care about our teams and they want to see them be the best versions of themselves that they can be.

When I ran in last year’s election one of the things I said was that I hoped students would have the same University sporting experience that I envisioned I would have when I applied back in 2016 (my rowing career was cut short due to glandular fever). However, glange has been something of a silver lining as it’s opened so many alternative branches of sport such as coaching and this job. I’ve loved almost every part of uni life but I have regrets when it comes to sport and I really hope that every student who participates in sport at Newcastle University can say the same thing.

I hope their experience has been everything and more.

So finally, it’s thank you from me. To every single student that has played their role in returning sport to our facilities and to university life. The staff in the Activities Team who help run the Athletic Union are brilliant and it’s great to work with people who care so much about student experience. The same thing can be said for all of the coaches and Sport Services staff I’ve met pitch side and throughout the season. Sport is a pillar of our university community and has the power to shape a student’s time at Newcastle. Take everything you can from it and ensure the foundations are laid so that the next group of students can come in and enjoy everything you did and more.

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